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Does the Institution of Marriage Foster

the Stability and Well-being of the Family?

[Both Emma Goldman and George Bernard Shaw were avowed feminists, but they seem to have had very different notions of the part that love plays in the feminist scheme of things, at least if the two quotes below are anything to go by.]

Love, the strongest and deepest element in all life, the harbinger of hope, of joy, of ecstasy; love, the defier of all laws, of all conventions; how can such an all-compelling force be synonymous with that poor little State and Church begotten weed, marriage?

Emma Goldman

When two people are under the influence of the most violent, most insane, most delusive and most transient of passions, they are required to swear that they will remain in that excited, abnormal and exhausting condition continuously until death do them part.

George Bernard Shaw

The modern writers who have suggested, in a more or less open manner, that the family is a bad institution, have generally confined themselves to suggesting, with much sharpness, bitterness, or pathos, that perhaps the family is not always very congenial. Of course the family is a good institution because it is uncongenial. It is wholesome precisely because it contains so many divergencies and varieties. It is, as the sentimentalists say, like a little kingdom, and, like most other little kingdoms, is generally in a state of something resembling anarchy. It is exactly because our brother George is not interested in our religious difficulties, but is interested in the Trocadero Restaurant, that the family has some of the bracing qualities of the commonwealth. It is precisely because our uncle Henry does not approve of the theatrical ambitions of our sister Sarah that the family is like humanity. The men and women who, for good reasons and bad, revolt against the family, are, for good reasons and bad, simply revolting against mankind...

Those who wish, rightly or wrongly, to step out of all this, do definitely wish to step into a narrower world. They are dismayed and terrified by the largeness and variety of the family. Sarah wishes to find a world wholly consisting of private theatricals; George wishes to think the Trocadero a cosmos. I do not say, for a moment, that the flight to this narrower life may not be the right thing for the individual, any more than I say the same thing about flight into a monastery. But I do say that anything is bad and artificial which tends to make these people succumb to the strange delusion that they are stepping into a world which is actually larger and more varied than their own. The best way that a man could test his readiness to encounter the common variety of mankind would be to climb down a chimney into any house at random, and get on as well as possible with the people inside. And that is essentially what each one of us did on the day that he was born.

G. K. Chesterton

I have not yet found real homes except in very stupid families to whom a house is a world.

George Bernard Shaw




Thoughts about Marriage & the Family

A man who marries a woman to educate her falls into the same fallacy as the woman who marries a man to reform him.

Elbert Hubbard

People should marry selfishly so that they can act unselfishly after they marry.

Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children; now I have six children, and no theories.

John Wilmot

The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.

Theodore Hesburgh

Hamlet is the tragedy of tackling a family problem too soon after college.

Children begin by loving their parents. After a time they judge them. Rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.

Oscar Wilde

He that hath wife and children have given hostages to fortune; for they are impediments to great enterprises, either of virtue or mischief.

Francis Bacon

The value of marriage is not that adults produce children, but that children produce adults.

Peter De Vries

Husbands never become good. They merely become proficient.

H. L. Mencken

Being a husband is a whole-time job. That is why so many husbands fail. They cannot give their entire attention to it.

Arnold Bennett

It is the woman who conceives, bears, and breast-feeds the child. The nominally equivalent role of father is in fact a cultural contrivance. The father is not inherently equal to the mother within the family, but must be made equal by society.

George F. Gilder

Man that is born of a woman has short days and full of misery; but nobody can picture the obscenity and bestial tragedy that would belong to such a monster as man that was born of a man.

G. K. Chesterton

It’s my old girl advises. She has the head. But I never own to it before her. Discipline must be maintained.

Charles Dickens (Mr Bagnet)

How gently glides the marriage life away
When she who rules still seems but to obey.

Publius Syrus

Love is blind, but marriage restores its sight.

G. C. Lichtenberg

Early in a relationship people are accepting and tolerant of the other person’s shortcomings. But as time passes these shortcomings are sensed more acutely and often come to be viewed as fatal flaws.

Brain Sex, Documentary

Marriage is neither heaven nor hell; it is simply purgatory.

Abraham Lincoln

The chains of marriage are so heavy that it takes two to bear them, and sometimes three.

Alexandre Dumas

Marriages not infrequently break up because the more compliant partner eventually feels compelled to re-assert his or her lost, separate identity.

This above all; to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the day the night,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Hamlet (Polonius)

Marriage with the right woman, living together till we are dead—how utterly right and sane that idea is!

Northrop Frye (from a letter to his fiancÚ)

Marriage is the unsuccessful attempt to make something lasting out of an incident.

Albert Einstein

No matter how many communes anybody invents, the family always creeps back.

Margaret Mead

The whole tendency of recent anthropology has been to discredit the old view that primitive societies were characterized by promiscuity and sexual license, and to reassert the importance and universality of marriage.

Christopher Dawson

Nobody, who has not been in the interior of a family, can say what the difficulties of any individual of that family may be.

Jane Austen

All happy families are alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Leo Tolstoy (famous first sentence of Anna Karenina)

The family is the basic unit of social life and the chief guardian of cultural tradition.

The existing world civilisations from Europe to China are all founded on the tradition of the patriarchal family.

Christopher Dawson

The marriage state, with and without the affection suitable to it, is the completest image of Heaven and Hell we are capable of receiving in this life.

Sir Richard Steele

My domestic life was falling into nerveless and dispassionate ways... there were arguments. These were never rows but rather wearisome exercises in self-justification which never stuck to any point for very long, but dragged across a whole landscape of differences along prescribed furrows. A kind of tedium enveloped us, made worse by the heedless happiness of our daughter.

Peter Ustinov (speaking of his first marriage)

The only alternative to social suicide is the restoration of the family. Sooner or later the state will realise that it can neither take the place of the family nor do without it.

Christopher Dawson

In the early days of the Communist regime in Russia ‘free love’ was preached. The resulting insecurity was so catastrophic that it threatened the stability of the State, and it wasn’t long before all the laws and regulations surrounding marriage were back in place.

The trouble with marriage is that while every woman is at heart a mother, every man is at heart a bachelor.

E. V. Lucas

The greatest sacrifice in marriage is the sacrifice of the adventurous attitude towards life.

George Bernard Shaw

There are some good marriages, but practically no delightful ones.

La Rochefoucauld

A marriage is neither an ecstasy nor a slavery; it is a commonwealth; it is a separate working and fighting thing like a nation. Kings and diplomatists talk of “forming alliances” when they make weddings; but indeed every wedding is primarily an alliance.

G. K. Chesterton

There has emerged no institution that can replace the family in turning children into civilized human beings.

George F. Gilder

A nation could be the best of families: one that creates independence, not dependence: whose purpose it is to nurture self-esteem in all its members.

Gloria Steinem

If a woman marries because she wants to have children, she might reflect that the average family has not proved to be a very good breeding ground for children...she might do better, for contraception is very possible, to wait until some suitable kind of household presents itself.

Germaine Greer

Twenty years of romance make a woman look like a ruin, but twenty years of marriage make her something like a public building.

Oscar Wilde

With married couples you would think that after 10 or 20 years we would resolve some cultural background, some slight differences... But you find that married couples learn how to tolerate each other.

Joseph Tanenbaum (Brain Sex, Documentary)

I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one. The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as such, are incompatible.

G. K. Chesterton

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